FRANKFORT, Ky. — Some Kentucky school districts are asking parents for input on how to spend the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief funds. This comes as several superintendents told lawmakers this week what they've used the federal funding for so far, and how they plan to use the next round.
Kentucky recently received just over $2 billion in the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding from the American Rescue Plan. 90% of that will be given to school districts across the commonwealth.
This is the third round of federal COVID-19 relief funding allocated to Kentucky schools. Several superintendents spoke before lawmakers Wednesday to provide some insight as to how those previous funds have been used and share ideas for the third round.
Dr. Houston Barber, the president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, said most districts used the first round of federal funding on pressing needs at that time. That included things like paying for technology needed to allow students to work from home, in addition to building upgrades to make it safer for students to come back in-person.
Many districts used ESSER II funds to pay for initiatives to help students make up for lost time. In Rockcastle County, that includes an expanded summer school programming with a camp-like feel.
“We wanted to really bring back that opportunity over the summer for them and re imagine what school looks like. It was important for us in Rockcastle County to draw our students back," said superintendent Carrie Ballinger. "Many of our students participated virtually this school year and we wanted to re imagine school and rebuild that love of learning and get them back to us. We had a very intentional focus on a camp atmosphere.”
With the ESSER III funds, a lot of districts are looking at how to set students up for success next school year. In many districts, that comes with an emphasis on mental health initiatives.
For example, Daviess County Schools hired seven new mental health professionals. Superintendent Matt Robbins says that is thanks to the ESSER III funds.
Other districts are still trying to figure out what they would like to use this latest round on.
Henderson County Schools surveyed parents about what they'd like to see the money used on. In Jefferson County, for example, the window to weigh in on that topic is still open. Parents can take the survey online.